Anderson Takes Position with the New Shelter

By Brian Davis

Grapevine Managing Editor Angelo Anderson has accepted a position with the Salvation Army 2100 Lakeside Place shelter, as Director of the Emergency shelter. Anderson will supervise staff and care for the 300 homeless people who seek shelter on a daily basis. This is the largest shelter facility ever seen in Cleveland, and after completion of phase II it will house over four hundred people every night. The facility opened 24 hours a day in late February, and has a medical clinic and regular visits by social workers.

            The shelter opened in early February and public celebration of the opening was February 17. At the urging of the County Commission, workers worked nearly around the clock to have the facility ready. In early December, the Commission had an emergency meeting to sign the contract for the new shelter, which was a shell of a warehouse. In a little over two months the construction crew had transformed the building into a well-lit, pleasant, welcoming facility.

            After only two weeks earlier standing on the steps of First United Methodist Church saying that some homeless people should be arrested, Mayor Michael White bottled up his anger toward those on the streets and attended the event. There were only a few homeless people present to witness the Mayor’s speech. One interesting note was that on February 2 at the White press conference at First Church, the Mayor used Lynn Key as the example of the bad people on the street who deserve to be arrested. Key was volunteering for the Salvation Army, helping to prepare the facility on the day the Mayor came to the building for the official opening ceremony. The Mayor and Key did not cross paths.     

            The County Commissioners all were present to marvel at the transformation of the building. Ron Reinhart, director of the Salvation Army PASS program, who saw this project to completion, was not able to attend the event. The staff and Board of the Salvation Army were all praised by the elected officials who attended the event for the wonderful facility. The staff of 2100 Lakeside are almost all homeless or formerly homeless individuals. Reaction from guests of the shelter has been overwhelmingly positive. One guest said, “They are running a good ship.”

            The facility was originally designed to replace the two overflow shelters, which housed 200 men a night. By the first week, the new shelter had 240 people. And in recent weeks 330 people per night have used the facility. Anderson scrambled, and with the help of County Administrator Tom Hayes, was able to secure 100 cots for the men. No longer in the City of Cleveland are men forced to sleep on the floor.

            Anderson said, “[Running the shelter] is more of a challenge than I thought. I am dealing with more intoxicated people and drug problems that I anticipated. We have way more people than the program was designed for.” On a cold Saturday night in early March, the facility took in 365 men.

            Anderson was encouraged because they recently began life skills and treatment classes. He is awaiting the opening of a kitchen to provide lunches to those who participate during the day. “The biggest challenge is convincing people that it takes time for people to change their life,” Anderson said. He said that his biggest victory was removing the drug dealers from the building. He is also proud that six people have already graduated the program into more stable living arrangements.

            The other replacement shelter for men opened on February 14. The deplorable shelter in the basement of the Welfare Building operated by Cornerstone Connection closed, and Mental Health Services opened a 50-bed facility for men on the corner of Payne and E. 17th. This facility is reserved for homeless men with a mental illness and completes a continuum of care for homeless people suffering with a mental disability. Mental Health Services now has an outreach team, a drop-in center, an emergency shelter, a representative payee system, and longer-term safe haven for those with a mental health illness. They can build a trusting relationship with an individual and assist them into stable permanent living arrangements without transferring an individual to other agencies.

            The women and children who reside at First United Methodist Church operated by Cornerstone Connection are still sleeping on the floor. Many have gone over to 2100 Lakeside Place to look at the accommodations for homeless men. At a public meeting at the Bishop Cosgrove Center, Beatrice and a number of other women asked, “Why is the County or City not improving the shelter for women?”

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine Issue #41, March-April 2000

 

Campers Continue Battle Against the City of Eugene

By Bridget Reilly

             On August 12th when I came back from my errands in town in the searching mid-afternoon heat.  I saw a little note stuck on my camper door, written on n the back of a business card.  At first I thought – or hoped – it was from John; it said something about coming back to talk to me later.  But when I liked more closely, I saw it was from Mac McFadden.  He had been here at about noon when I was gone, and would come back later that evening.  This gave me a little glimmer of hope that maybe our future was not as bleak as John imagined. 

             Faithful to his promise, Mac returned later that evening in his red Ford pickup truck and aid matter-of-factly, “Long times no see!”  This guy was someone I had known since the Armitage camp battle of 1992, which had been my introduction to Eugene; the first homeless rights struggle here that my former partner Rich and I had jumped into with both feet and got a lot of local media attention.

             As Mac talked to me in his calm, measuring voice, I began to realize that someone really was looking out for our needs and we were not all alone on these miserable streets.  This good man was the clear mind and the quiet, rock-steady resolve had been working for us all along ever since the Armitage days.  He was also one, who had not lost my trust or alienated me in any way, like some of the other HAC people had.  And how he was re-appearing in my life because he had heard John’s voice loud and clear that August 10th meeting and had taken careful note of all he had to say.  John had told him the exact location where we were parked, and he took the trouble to come out here and visit us in person (of course not knowing John wouldn’t be here.)

             He had apparently been reading my writings all along the latest letter in the Register-Guard.  Now I knew that John had done more good than he’d realized by going to that meeting making his fears known.  I also saw that he had been mistaken to undermine Mac, just because he couldn’t “troubleshoot” for 2000 people all at once.  Mac told me that we were among the people at the top of his list to be moved into save locations when they were made available. This was partly because he had known me as a homeless activist for 6 years, and partly because John as my partner, had raised his voice in such an urgent and justifiable cry of need – a case of the “squeaky wheels getting the grease.”

             The deadline was October 1st and this was only mid-august.  Mac assured me that my camper would be in a legal parking slot well before the deadline and that I wasn’t likely to be hassled between now and then.

             But after he left, I was again physically alone, and I had to take what he had said on pre faith:  “this is not a crisis situation yet.”  I kept repeating those words in my head like a mantra to calm the fear. I would also repeat them in my next letter to John if he didn’t come back soon. (He had a post office box in town that he checked now and then.)

             During the next days I tried to sort all of this out, to see how much the perceived “crisis situation” affected our relationship dynamics.  So much of the stressful arguing we did was only because we were in such desperate straits – or imagine we were.

            If the factor of our “illegality” could be eliminated, how different would it be?  If it weren’t for the threat of my being harassed while he was gone, it would have been much simpler matter to accommodate his occasional need to split for the woods; whether I and my camper went with him or not wouldn’t be such an urgent issue.  We wouldn’t need to use the woods as a residence just because we were “illegal” in town. (Of course, John always blurred the outlines between these two needs because he really did think of the woods as his home; it was where he wanted to be in any case.)

             At the present time the situation in town seemed impossible to him, so that his only “solution” was to walk out.  What if I could make him see that the picture was not so bleak as he had made it out to be?  These questions kept going around and around in my head without getting any certain answers.  But one thought was very clear; once I did get into a legal parking space, we would be able to sort out what was true and what was not true about us as a couple.

             A few days later John returned but only briefly.  I told him about the conversation with Mac, but his attitude was still “I’ll believe it when I see it,” and he was still doubtful that I would be safe here in the meantime.

             He also couldn’t understand why I was dragging my feet about getting my driver’s permit.  He had gotten me a DMV manual to study, but I was plodding through it very slowly, a couple of pages a day.  It was the most boring reading I could imagine; there were other things I preferred to read in the morning that were more soul-nourishing.  I resented the idea that I was expected to drive my truck just because it was what my house happened to be sitting on.

             At this time went on, however, it became more clear that I should go for the permit.  However offensive the idea was to me, this was all about learning to “paddle my own canoe.”  It was a way that I could be more in command of my own life, and have a shot of being “equal” with John as he wanted me to be.

 

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue 41 March – April 2000

 

Cornerstone Connection Locks Women Out of Shelter

By Scott Barr

            Approximately 50 women huddled outside of the Cornerstone Connection shelter for close to four hours on Saturday, March 4, when shelter workers failed to show up to let them in. The group is usually transported from the Care Alliance at 2219 Payne to the shelter in the basement by eight o’clock to sleep for the night. This night however, it was past 11:00 P.M., and there was no sign of the site manager to open the doors.

            Just before midnight, an ambulance was called to the scene.

            Emergency medical personnel treated and transported a pregnant woman suffering from exposure to St. Vincent Hospital.

            The ambulance crew called First Church, the police, and other shelters to report the stranded clients and their condition. About a half an hour later, shelter staff finally pulled up and unlocked the doors and let the women in.

            “Saturday night when she got there to the church, we had been out there for five-and-a-half hours,” said shelter guest Madeline Walker. “And when she got there her attitude was already bad, and when a few of the ladies asked to go to the bathroom, she slammed a door in their faces.”

            If anyone knows what happened on that chilly Saturday night to delay the opening of the women’s emergency shelter, they are not volunteering about it.           

            The director of Cornerstone Connection, Barbara Williams, did not return phone-calls requesting information on the incident.

            The Office of Homeless Services for Cuyahoga County is one of the main sources of funding for Cornerstone Connection. The manager there, Ruth Gilette, knew of the incidents, but refused to comment unless her supervisor, Tom Hayes, would authorize a statement. Mr. Hayes didn’t return a phone call and shed any light on the situation.

            The city of Cleveland’s contribution to the operating costs for the shelter is managed by Bill Resseger, Community Development staff, who said he had heard of the lockout resulting in one of the clients being taken to St. Vincent, but said that he did not have any first hand knowledge of the situation, and did not care to comment further.

            There was enough concern in the air over the next couple of days that a closed door meeting of shelter clients was held so that they could vent their concerns and make suggestions on improvements in the way that the shelter is operated.

            Dan Shramo of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) tried to attend the meeting at the invitation of some of the clients. Site Manager Aretha Maddox told him that the meeting was closed to anyone except shelter clientele. He was forcibly removed from the meeting by security personnel.

            “We do not have a problem with NEOCH,” Maddox said, “In fact we would love to work with you’all more and be in on what your concerns are and what you’re doing to help the women so that we can all collaborate.”

            Shramo then asked Maddox to tell the women that NEOCH would set up a forum for them if they elected or appointed five representatives from among themselves to bring about improvements in their living conditions. NEOCH has identified five women who will represent the group’s interest. They are attempting to set up a meeting with the City and County to talk about the situation at Cornerstone Connection.

            There is growing support within the County to put aside money to replace Cornerstone Connection with a real emergency shelter with beds.

            After the meeting was over, Shramo interviewed several of the clients. They reported complaints ranging from a female client being walked-in-on while showering by male staff members, rude and/or discourteous behavior by shelter personnel, and an assault on a client in which after escaping into the shelter from a man outside who was beating her, the man busted out several windows with his fist.

            “All kinds of crazy, ludicrous things go on over there, they talk to us like we’re nobody,” said Walker later. “If I talk to you civilly, intelligently, and respect you, I feel I should get the same. I’m not going to sit around and just let you talk to me anyway you want because I’m homeless. I’m not stupid; I’m just homeless.”

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #41, March-April 2000

 

Criminalizing Homeless is No Solution

 

Bill Faith

             At this time of the year, perhaps more so than any other, the “haves’ tend to think a little more about the “have-nots.”  We are taught to give a little more, to show some compassion for the poor.  After all it is the holidays.

             That is why it is all the more difficult to understand what is happening in New York City and Cleveland.

             Mayor Rudolph Giuliani instituted a “get-tough-on-the-homeless” policy that jails homeless persons in New York City if they refuse to be transported to a shelter.  Nearly 1000 homeless people have been jailed as a result of Giuliani’s polity.

             Closer to home, Mayor Michael White and the city of Cleveland have started to arrest homeless people for doing nothing more than sleeping on downtown sidewalks.

             Classifying homeless people, shoplifters, muggers, panhandlers and other criminals as one and the same, White said this “crackdown’ is designed to ‘move poverty out of sight so they (shoppers) will have a peaceful shopping season.”  Though the number of arrests resulted from Mayor White’s policy are substantially fewer that the New York numbers, the reality is the same:  Homelessness is being criminalized.

             Fortunately for residents of the greater Columbus area, this is not the case.  In fact, the majority of Franklin County residents are concerned enough about homelessness to support real, substantive and long-term solutions.

             Recently, the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) released the results of a public-opinion survey, which consisted of 500 telephone interviews of a representative sample of Franklin County residents.

             The survey was designed to help understand public perceptions of homelessness, and to help plan future housing and service programs.  The survey found that homelessness is a major concern, ranking second only to “drugs and crime” and tied with public education.

             The survey was designed to help understand public perceptions of homelessness, and to help plan future housing and service programs.  The survey found that homelessness is a major concern, ranking second only to ‘drugs and crime’ and tied with pubic education.

             The survey reflects the public’s strong belief that homelessness primarily is caused by external factors such as unemployment rather than internal factors such as mental illness or drug use.  A large majority (nearly 72 percent) of the respondents agreed that “homeless people are normal people facing temporary problems like unemployment or sudden rent increases.”

             Those surveyed overwhelmingly rejected proposals to “make life on the street more difficult and unpleasant until the homeless decide to leave town” as a possible remedy for homelessness.  Only 8 percent of the respondents felt such strategies would work.

             They strongly endorsed a fundamental shift in overall policy, however, and a move from large emergency shelters to smaller, geographically scattered permanent housing and programs that include job training and supportive services. 

             More than 70 percent of those polled felt this strategy was an effective way to reduce homelessness.  Results like this show that people are compassionate but practical.

             The General Accounting Office, in a recent report, cited Franklin County as a national model for its efforts to plan to coordinate program for the homeless.  Like most metropolitan areas, Franklin County historically has relied on large temporary shelters, though the Scioto Peninsula Task Force recently recommended the development of 800 units of new supportive housing coupled with a cutback in temporary.

             Making this proposal a reality will require corporate and public resources, non-profit organization management of well-designed projects, political will and community acceptance.  Those polled indicated they would actually favor the smaller housing units in their neighborhoods for people who are homeless if the housing comes with supportive services such as medical and psychiatric care and job training.

             By a margin of nearly 3 to 1, respondents said they would support “a proposal to build supportive housing of the homeless somewhere in their won neighborhood.”  By a margin of more than 6 to 1, those surveyed agreed that “Well-designed and well-maintained housing for the homeless can fit in a neighborhood,”  while 82 percent agreed that, “We need to build more housing with supportive services to get homeless people off

Of the streets.”

             Unfortunately, homelessness is an issue that affects far more people than one might think.  Whether you live in Columbus or Cleveland, the number of individuals and families who are homeless is increasing.  According to the most recently information collected, COHHIO estimates that in 1998, some 97,600 people experienced homelessness in Ohio’s 10 most populous counties alone. 

             The poll seems to indicate that residents may understand  better than our political leaders that the remedy for homelessness depends on jobs, affordable housing and services – not criminalization.

             Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #41 March-April, 2000

Poverty Activists Pass Platform to Raise Standard of Living in Cuyahoga County

On Saturday, February 12, 2000, at Trinity Cathedral, The Empowerment Center of Greater Cleveland and Stop Targeting Ohio’s Poor held a forum to discuss the impact of the state and county efforts to change the welfare system. Out of this poverty summit came an Anti-Poverty Human Rights Platform, for which the groups are currently seeking endorsements from other community organizations.

            Five mothers spoke on the hardships that welfare reform has caused. Debra Skipper testified that after a sanction she became homeless. Yvonne Parboosingh was denied access to child care. Activists, religious and community leaders listened to recipients and commented on the state of our welfare system. Chelly Tufts of South Euclid testified about the nightmare bureaucracy of the welfare system in Cuyahoga County.

            After the lunch, those gathered discussed and passed an anti-poverty human rights platform [see related stories]. Rev. Mark Koenig, of the Presbytery of the Western Reserve, commenting in support of the platform, said that it was necessary to refocus one’s vision in order to understand the need for a fundamental change in society to combat poverty.

            The platform calls for a “family friendly wage,” a limited end to the time limits, a state earned income tax credit, full medical coverage, no sanctioning of food, and placing value on education and parenting. The platform was passed by the over 100 people in attendance. On Valentine’s Day, at the State Office Building on Superior Ave., the platform was publicly unveiled. In a driving snowstorm, 25 activists gathered to call for government leaders to “Have a Heart” and pass the Anti-Poverty Human Rights Platform.

            The statistics that justify the platform show that children are suffering and do not deserve to live in perpetual poverty. By all indicators showing the health and welfare of children, poverty levels, educational levels, contact with the justice system, and incomes, the poor who live in Cuyahoga County are not receiving the benefits of the strongest economy in the history of the United States. With nine months left of welfare for thousands of households in Cuyahoga County, activists intend to gain public support of the platform and seek state-wide implementation.

            State Representative Dale Miller of Cleveland’s West Side attended both the summit and the Valentine’s Day demonstration. He previewed legislation that he is sponsoring to move the time clocks to the five year federal time limits instead of the three years in Ohio. His bill, which is sponsored in the Ohio Senate by C. J. Prentiss, also does not allow food to be sanctioned, and removes a sanction as soon as a recipient comes into compliance. At this time, the family must wait out the term of the sanction no matter when they come into compliance.

Cuyahoga County Anti-Poverty Human Rights Platform

  • End the Time Limits.

            Time limits should end for families with children under 3-years old or households that cannot find employment that pays a family-friendly wage.

  • Parenting is a Full-Time Occupation.

            Effective parenting should be encouraged and supported. The County and State need to support the valuable occupation of raising the next generation rather than support the tragic increases in foster care and the juvenile justice system. The County should place a monetary value on raising children.

  • County-Wide Family-Friendly Wage.

            Every family should have an income to provide a nutritious diet, clothing, safe and adequate housing, health benefits, childcare and other necessities that ensure basic human life free from poverty as put forward in the National Academy of Sciences measurement of poverty.

  • A Moratorium on Further Application of Ohio Works First Rules.

            The 1997 Ohio Works First rules (“welfare reform”) should be suspended until the system is fully in place. This includes certified intensive training of the staff and an independent verification that the system is customer friendly. The draconian rules for OWF started in 1997, but the benefits and operation of the system are still evolving. When the system is in place the child in a family should never be sanctioned. Sanctioning should end as soon as the family complies.

  • Reduce Caseloads for the County Human Service Workers.

            The head of the family needs intensive assistance in order to overcome barriers to economic independence. The County social workers (self-sufficiency coaches) need time to provide proper mentoring to those currently on cash assistance.

  • Education Cancels the Work Requirements.

            Every hour of class time of adult or secondary education as well as higher education equals two hours of work. Research shows that education is one of the key factors to get out of poverty and should be accessible to all low-income individuals.

  • No Sanctioning of Food.

            Food is a basic need and right and should not be part of a sanction for any infraction of the rules.

  • Loss of Assistance Should Not Cause Homelessness.

            Families who cannot find decent safe housing because of a loss of welfare benefits should be provided a housing voucher by the County or the State.

  • Preservation of the Family is Paramount.

            The preservation of the family is the single highest principle for County employees interacting with the family. Loss of cash assistance does not justify the removal of the children from the family. There should never be a complete removal of resources from a family that then triggers the removal of the children.

  • Full Family Medical Coverage.

            Medicaid should be extended to all family members for those making under 200% of the federal poverty threshold.

  • Initiate a State Earned Income Tax Credit.

            Households that earn less than 200% of poverty should be entitled to a state earned income tax credit. Households that earn less than poverty level wages should receive the maximum tax credit allowable in an attempt to lift their yearly income above poverty.

  • What is the State of the Community?

            The State of Ohio requires that an annual report be delivered to the state legislature detailing the impact of the changes in the welfare system on the counties in Ohio. This has yet to be done. A complete study of the impact of welfare reform needs to be devised and put into place.

  • It’s Raining in Cuyahoga County.

            The above anti-poverty programs need to be funded using the State Human Services rainy-day surplus. The children of Cuyahoga County are suffering and do not deserve to live in poverty.

Passed by Participants of the Family Poverty Summit, 2/12/00

For more information call the Empowerment Center of Greater Cleveland, Dr. Goldie Roberts, 216-432-4770.

Statistics that Justify the Anti-Poverty Human Rights Platform

  • ·         End the Time Limits.

Between 4,000-6,167 households will lose their eligibility for cash assistance October 1, 2000, with as many as 3,000-4,000 additional by January 2001. Cuyahoga County can exempt 20% of the total caseload from 1999, which is around 4,000 families. There is no debate that families in Cuyahoga County will lost cash benefits and have no income after October 1, 2000.

  • ·         Parenting is a Full-Time Occupation.

According to a 1999 study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation on the state of children in the United States, Cleveland is in the bottom third of every category with regard to the health and welfare of children. The juvenile justice system in Cuyahoga County has grown dramatically over the last five years. In 1994, there were 9,003 official delinquency and unruly cases filed in Cuyahoga County, while in 1998 there were 14, 024 cases filed (a 64% increase over 1994 levels).

  • ·         County-Wide Family-Friendly Wage.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development released a study, Out of Reach 1999, the Gap Between Housing Costs and Income of Poor People, which showed that a family had to work 78 hours per week at a minimum wage to afford a two bedroom apartment in Ohio. They found a family needed $10.10 per hour to afford an apartment, up from $9.90 in 1998 and $9.53 in 1997.

  • ·         A Moratorium on Further Application of Ohio Works First Rules.

The letters given to those families sanctioned from cash benefits still do not indicate that the family remains eligible for Medicaid and Food Stamps. The Center on Urban Poverty and Social Change at Mandel Center at CWRU reported in late 1999 that only 48-56% of the families leaving cash assistance continue to receive Food Stamps and Medicaid after leaving cash assistance.

  • ·         Reduce Caseloads for the County Human Service Workers.

            The current caseload for Cuyahoga County Human Service workers is between 80 and 100 clients.

  • ·         Higher Education Cancels the Work Requirements.

Among families headed by African American women, the poverty rate declines from 51% to 21% with at least one year of post-secondary education, according to the U. S. Census department. For white women, the figure drops from 22% to 13% with one year of higher education.

  • ·         No Sanctioning of Food.

Money spent by Cuyahoga County on the Food Stamps program is down 54.75% from March 1994-September 1999. A nationwide study by the Institute for Poverty and Children and Houses for the Homeless found in 1999 that 19% of the children who were homeless throughout the country were hungry while almost all of those children were eligible for Food Stamps.

  • ·         Loss of Assistance Should Not Cause Homelessness.

Houses for the Homeless surveyed homeless families in 24 cities and released a report called Homeless in America: A Children’s Story. They found that 20% of the families surveyed reported that the changes in the welfare system caused homelessness between 1997 and 1998.

  • ·         Preservation of the Family is Paramount.

            The number of foster care and adoption cases has grown by 200% in Cuyahoga County in the last four years. According

to CEOGC, there were 1,700 cases of children in foster care or the adoption system in 1994, with 5,110 in 1999.

  • ·         Full Family Medical Coverage.

National statistics show that if the parent is not covered by the Medicaid system then it is more likely that the child will not receive health-care coverage offered by Medicaid. Again, the Center on Urban Poverty and Social Change found that only 36% of the families who had left welfare in late 1998 or early 1999 had health insurance on the job that they had found.

  • ·         What is the State of the Community?

The Mandel Center on Urban Poverty study reported that after six months of leaving cash assistance, 55% of the families had incomes below the poverty threshold, with 14% of that population living on an income between $0 and $6,567 a year for a family of three. A CEOGC study released in January 2000 found that over two-thirds of Ohio’s poor children on welfare no longer receive any cash assistance. In Cuyahoga County, only 49% of the poor children (age 0-17) receive cash assistance in 1999. According to tax returns, the mean income of taxpayers has decreased in the city of Cleveland, East Cleveland, and Warrensville Heights between 1990-1997 in the face of overwhelming increases (some substantial) in the rest of the County and throughout the nation.

  • ·         It’s Raining in Cuyahoga County.

By all indicators showing the health and welfare of children, poverty levels, educational levels, contact with the justice system, and incomes, the poor who live in Cuyahoga County are not receiving the benefits of the strongest economy in the history of the United States.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine Issue #41 March-April 2000

 

Rev. Al Sharpton Celebrates Homeless Victory in Whirlwind Tour of Cleveland

By Alex Grabtree

            The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the NAACP collaborated for the first time on a City Hall celebration February 10, 2000 at the Free Stamp. Rev. Al Sharpton of New York City and the National Action Network joined Cleveland activists to call attention to the criminalization of homelessness nationally, and he called for better treatment of homeless people. In a horrible rainy cold day on the lake, Sharpton spoke to a small gathering of supporters. He said he joined in a multiracial struggle to protect homeless people from oppression.

            Mayor Michael White instituted a policy modeled after a New York City initiative to force homeless people into shelter. White forced police to roust homeless people for blocking the sidewalk and disorderly conduct to force them off of the streets. Thomas Jackson, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, spoke and characterized White’s policy as an “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” philosophy for solving homelessness. Modeled after the New York City and Rudy Guiliani policy of criminalizing poverty, Sharpton was critical of the Guiliani and White policy to poor people.

            The Free Stamp provided a break to the cold wind and a symbol of the freedom regained by homeless people with the consent decree worked out on February 2. The consent decree allows the court to maintain jurisdiction, and the Coalition for the Homeless will continue to monitor any infractions of the agreement.

            Sharpton spoke before an overflow crowd at the NAACP Millennium 2000 lecture series at the Cleveland Playhouse earlier in the day. He said that Mayor White was a sad characterization of the great African Americans from Cleveland like Carl Stokes. He talked about how many in the black community had forgotten the struggle and left behind their roots. He highlighted some of the major issues that confront the African American community, and the need for continued agitation. Using language that has not been heard since the Civil Rights movement, Sharpton energized the crowd to reinvest in the community and stop accepting false leaders.

            Staci Santa, associate director of NEOCH, reported only one violation of the consent decree to date. She said, “Sharpton was able to drive home the point that this is a national trend. If we do not stop the government from criminalizing homelessness, we are going to see more hate crimes directed at homeless people.”

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine Issue #41, March-April 2000

 

Vendor Takes on Media Domination of Politics

(When John McCain Came to Town)

 Commentary by Marsha Rizzo

             When John McCain came to the West Side Market, I went up to the front where everybody was yelling, “Yeah for McCain,” and I was listening to the garbage that he was selling to the people and stating that he was going to take out the special interests and give back to the people.

             Somehow he wants to give the rich 20 million dollars more.  The poor people would get nothing.  In other words, the rich would get richer and the poor get poorer.  Thirty dollars a piece.

             When I heard that he was going to take special interests out and give back money to the American People, I yelled out that I know that I’m not homeless, but are the homeless people going to get anything if you become president?  Then I heard from someone in the media say, “Now John McCain is going to take questions from the media.”

             I got up and yelled, “What do you mean ask the media questions?  You need to ask the constituents questions!  The media can take down whatever is asked by your constituents.  The media is not here to ask questions, we are; and the media needs to let us ask the questions so that the people know what it is that he is going to do for us!”

             Meanwhile, as I was yelling, someone, I don’t know if it was someone who was angry or whether it was someone from the media.  SHE KNOWS WHO SHE IS, told me to SHUT my mouth.  The said that we were going to have a town hall meeting, but would not give me information about the meeting because she was trying to blow me off.  I, myself, do no get blown off so easily.  I gave her a Homeless Grapevine and told her my name was Marsha Rizzo, and that I sole the newspaper.

             I told her, “Give this paper to John McCain so that he can read it and hear about what’s happening with the homeless people here in Cleveland, since you are the media and you don’t care about us, the people, asking questions.  So please give him the paper and ask him to what it was that he was going to do to help the homeless.”

             Whether she gave him the paper or not I don’t know.  The media does not care whether we live or die but any time they need a story they will come up and sweet talk you.  The media wants to look out for the publishers but they don’t care about us—only what they can gain by exploiting people.

             As I said before, I’m not homeless, but I care for the homeless.  They are people too.  God did not make junk.  Homeless people have talent, too.  People forget that homeless people need to be treated with respect.  Since I started working for the Grapevine, I have seen quite a lot of homeless people who have a lot of talent and need the opportunity to use their abilities and be respected, not downsized and thrown aside like pieces of paper.  Homeless people have love and compassion because they have to struggle.

             If our elected officials had to suffer the pain and humiliation of being homeless, maybe they would learn what compassion is.  I believe compassion comes from living hard and having to struggle.

             I’m not talking about anger because we all have anger in us.  I’m talking about not shutting the homeless out.  It makes them discouraged and not understanding.

             When they tell you to go get a job, to me it’s somebody who already has a job.  I think you need to tell these people, “If you want us to get a job, why don’t you give us one.”  I myself have credentials, and due to age discrimination. Which has not yet been proven, I have no job.  I have to sell the Grapevine to make ends meet.

             But I need to get back o the real issue; when John McCain came to the market and left, and nothing happened, and everyone went back to the real issues of living day by day as usual.  Nothing changed.  Like usual.

 Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine Issue #41 March – April 2000